Get the most out of apprentices 

September 3, 2017

Big changes in the way apprenticeships are funded and administered have taken place. Getting the most out of these changes – for your staff, your productivity and your bottom line – is essential, and here’s how you can.

Firstly, it’s important to know what an apprentice is – and what they can do for your business.

Apprentices are aged 16 or over, and combine on-the-job training with classroom-based study as they accrue the skills vital to your business, and work towards a professional qualification.

Their training usually takes between one and four years, but throughout that time, they are building competencies that are benefiting your business.

It’s important to know that apprentices aren’t just young people who are starting careers. Apprenticeships can be used to upskill existing staff, or even career-changers.

Just look at the success of apprenticeships at growing Tyneside-based Utilitywise.

Bosses at the business energy consultancy say specialist technical accounting apprenticeships have helped the firm’s finance team increase performance.

Utilitywise turned to Northern Skills Group, the apprenticeship and training arm of Middlesbrough College, to run Level 2 and Level 3 Association of Accounting Technician (AAT) apprenticeship qualifications at the firm’s Cobalt Business Park premises.

The training is delivered to the majority of the Utilitywise finance department team – including those eligible for apprenticeship funding, and those with existing degrees, for whom the company has paid.

The North East Ambulance Service has also trained 79 apprentices since 2012, a mix of new recruits and upskilling of staff already in post.

Now the organisation pays the Apprenticeship Levy – part of those big changes mentioned earlier – and continues to invest in apprenticeships and get value back.

It recently enrolled nine apprentices as ambulance care assistants – a role from which some go on to train as paramedics.

The levy means that firms with a pay bill of £3 million or more will contribute 0.5 per cent of that bill to invest in apprenticeships.

98 per cent of businesses will not pay the Levy.

For non-levy payers, the Government covers 90 per cent of the cost of training. What’s more, for businesses with fewer than 50 staff who recruit 16-18 year-olds, the Government will cover all of the costs.

So, perhaps your business needs a supply of technical skills to safeguard its future, or a couple of your junior staff have got future management potential – apprenticeships could be the solution.

Peter Wilson, Northern Skills Group director, says: “Businesses and organisations across the country are getting enormous value from making apprenticeships part of their long-term workforce development strategy.

“The Apprenticeship Levy should be embraced as an opportunity which affords employers a route to invest in the skills and training they need to stay competitive and sustainable.

“Northern Skills Group’s specialist team lives and breathes apprenticeships. We work across all sectors of the economy and beyond the North East.

“Our clients, many of whom have worked with us for many years, include small, owner-managed businesses, multinational PLCs, Local Authorities, Universities and NHS Trusts for whom we are providing whole workforce development solutions.”

Northern Skills Group